Bright Angel Time

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The time is the early 1970s. Eight-year-old Kate and her sisters adopt a life on the road when their divorced mother falls in love with someone new. Introduced to a lifestyle marked by strange freedom, the girls fall into a way of living that is vastly different from the one they knew with their geologist father. And it is with him, amid the beauty of his beloved Grand Canyon, that adult distractions and carelessness finally threaten to explode and ruin Kate’s life. Rich in character, imagery, and humor, and providing a vivid picture of a decade when values and morels were turned upside down, Bright Angel Time is that rarity, a brilliant and moving novel from an authentic talent.

Praise for Bright Angel Time

To get a sense of what Martha McPhee’s affecting first novel is like, imagine ”Rabbit Run” or ”Revolutionary Road” written from the point of view of an 8-year-old child, witness to the dissolution of her parents’ marriage. Imagine this same precocious girl privy to the hippie shenanigans of ”The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” and committed to setting down her observations in clear-eyed prose….

Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times | Read the full review

Martha Mcphee’s first novel, ”Bright Angel Time,” is, thankfully, not about angels. It’s more down-to-earth than that. Set mostly in the early 1970’s and narrated by Kate, a thoughtful 8-year-old, it’s about the geology of attachment, the sedimentary layering of affections and seismic rifts of passion that create one family’s emotional landscape. At a time when psychological memoirs are the favored literary means of recapturing childhood confusion, Ms. McPhee’s novel is a welcome reminder of the power of metaphor — of fiction — to shape and interpret the chaos of early experience. What might have been a one-trauma-after-another chronicle of loss and divorce becomes instead a hard and shining artifact of personal and social upheaval.

Walter Kirn, The New York Times Book Review | Read the full review

[An] emotionally charged, beautifully written first novel…A tight, emotionally urgent, polished account of familial meltdown…The author plays a game of trust with the past, falling backwards in time, painting a coarse memories beautifully, and finding beauty where it’s fleeting and scarce.

The New York Post

Told with great verve and poetic sweep, Bright Angel Time is a wise, pointed, utterly absorbing childhood narrative—honest, and above all, original.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Gorgeous…The voice of the young narrator trying to find her center is compelling and lucid In this well-rendered tale of misplaced dreams and forgotten realities, McPhee’s prose is as delicate and lovely as an angel’s wing.


This is an original, particularly American story of a family unhappy in its own way…McPhee writes with assurance in her first novel. Her story flows smoothly, and she dissects her characters kindly.


Bright Angel Time is a gorgeous novel with subtle things to say about America in the wake of the first divorce boom…McPhee writes such lovely sentences that you want to do more than just underline them: you want to cut them out.


[A] funny and acerbic family novel.


Full of beautiful writing and dead-on observations about the era that spawned broken families and broken hearts—and shot through with an aching sense of dislocation and adolescent rebellion—McPhee’s saga will haunt anyone who has ever felt lost on even the firmest ground.


If you’re looking for a fresh voice, try Martha McPhee’s first novel, Bright Angel Time, as told by a whip-smart eight-year-old.


In her first novel, Bright Angel Time (Harcourt Brace), Martha McPhee captures the era when women’s liberation mixed with notions of free love led to sexual license, and Gestalt therapy promised enlightenment. Seen through the eyes of eight-year-old Kate and her two sisters, this is not so much a time of freedom as one of confusion, adult carelessness, and neglect. Kate’s steely-eyed view of her parents’ world, combined with McPhee’s brilliant imagery and deft characterization, makes this ’70s-era tale a book for the ’90s…

The novel centers on 8 year old Kate, her 10 and 12 year old sisters, and their divorced mother Eve reeling from her failed marriage Eve, falls for Anton— the complete opposite of her ex. Robbed of her comfortable lifestyle, Eve takes her girls and joins Anton and his kids on the road in a turquoise camper. As 8 year old Kate explains, “It’s the 70’s you could do that…

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